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Where do I belong? When does one become indigenous?

 
gardener
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Posting in the Cider Press can get heated arguments started.
To preface this post on my paternal side I am part American Indian but you would never know looking at me, my maternal Northern European stands out. On my maternal side my grandparents came into the U.S. through Ellis Island settled in North Dakota and then moved across the Canadian border where my mother was born.
Many papers I have read indicate that indigenous peoples count for 5% of the current worlds population, count for roughly 15% of the poor, yet watch over 80% of the land mass. How that 5% figure works out as to percentage of bloodline is foggy just as the 80% of land mass overview.
Let's say that 5% number is accurate. 95% of the rest of the population belongs where? Where would I go back to? Will I ever be Indigenous with my mixed heritage anywhere? When or does a current population ever become native?
One of my friends is a full blooded American Indian and is married to a non native. We can have animated discussions without hurt feelings with my miniscule First Nation blood. He rightly so brings up the past wrongs. We came to a silent pondering the other day when he brought up the ills brought about by non indigenous peoples and how they could be amended and I queried where does that place his daughter a 50% non indigenous  person. Where does that place his wife? Do they have a burden of making it right? Moving forward what does the 95% do. Will they ever be accepted?
 
pollinator
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I don't want to minimize anything any indigenous people have gone through in the past, or are living currently, but I think the sooner everyone is thought of as indigenous to earth, the better off we will all be.
 
gardener
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I feel discussing race can be helpful as long as all the parties who are discussing it agree to be respectful about it. I have a dear Black friend who discusses racial issues with me freely. I'm honored she feels she can do it.

I grew up on a very culturally diverse military base. I never knew what a gift that was until I moved to very homogenous area and "others" were spoken of with disdain. I had no idea that sort of ugliness still existed. I decided my best strategy was to be kind to everyone.

My motto is that everyone can be proud of how God made them. But also be celebratory that God made others differently.

The sooner we realize that there is only one Race---the Human Race---the better off we will be.

Now I am going to mention something religious, so bear with me: the Bible says in the last days that "nation will rise against nation." The word "nation" actually comes from the original Greek "ethnos." So that tells me that race wars will increase. What can I do personally to love my neighbor as myself? Treat them as being made in God's image--having His fingerprints upon their souls.

I can only be responsible for my own actions, and hopefully pass on a respectful ethos to my children.

So, my answer to the question in the thread title: "Where do I belong?"

"You belong."
 
pollinator
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This is a difficult topic, and I feel for anyone caught up in it personally.

Mine is an outsiders' perspective, and it's possible that I have misunderstood some stances or concepts within the culture, so if you have better information or a clearer or more relevant perspective, I would love to listen. But here goes.

My limited understanding is that status is a touchy thing in some cases and contexts. Some are really concerned about the historical appropriation of their culture by those of European or otherwise foreign descent. Some are concerned about the dilution or diminution of their cultural identities, even on the biological level, or at least I thought that had traditionally been a concern. Some are concerned that their mixed heritage leaves them without a place, viewing each cultural identity as conflicting with the other.

The question of belonging, to my mind, is a particularly problematic one. Individuals of unclear (undocumented or lost) lineage have been called out by indigenous communities in Canada because they claimed association with cultural groups that didn't, or at least hadn't, recognized the validity of the individual's claims. Part of the concern is obviously those who don't belong trying to benefit from the cultural association, or even from government programs designed to help indigenous people.

If one's indigeneity is judged by others, and they might use different yardsticks to reach their conclusions, there can really be no clear answer. I would perhaps think about another question.

Something like, how can I show the people that I belong? Proof might take the form of family trees, government records, and old pictures, but deeds might make the point moot if the point is to actually become accepted within the community.

I hope I haven't gotten this too far wrong, but I feel focusing on the trees and just acknowledging the forest and letting it be might be a path to peace for you on this one. Be good to the people, and they will see that you are worth their time. You may never be considered indigenous by some measures. You know what you know of your heredity, and nobody can take that from you. But there are more telling, more important things.

Good luck, and keep us posted.

-CK
 
Robert Ray
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Commenality, a consistent accepted norm, maybe that should be the yardstick we use to measure. With questions of indigenousness we hear cultural misappropriation. When do we begin that measure? Spoken language? Written language?  Mathematics, Arabic numbers? Use of medical knowledge? Sewage treatment? Taco and Pie recipes? What will get us to the "indigenous to the earth" Trace mentions?
 
Chris Kott
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Respect of the individual sounds like the only substantive commonality for which we could strive. It essentially encompasses everything, if we take our respect seriously and view our rights as "that which we are free from," rather than "that which we are free to..."

In that reading of it, the environment gets the same treatment as an individual, and environmental and societal harms are part of the stuff from which we're guaranteed freedom.

To get there, though, is difficult. It requires at least a diminishment of one's identity labels, and an augmentation of one's own self and personality. If you're over-identified with any political or social label, you might find it difficult to discard it to get to the point where you are acting as your individual self rather than as an outgrowth of adopted socio-political labels.

This is the hard part. You're asking about when one becomes indigenous. I'm saying that in seeking individual cultural identities, as opposed to individual single identities, full stop, we're obviating that unity.

Yes, there's more unity when none of us belong to any group other than the group of individuals that collectively makes up humanity.

Which is not to say that we have to give up cultural and ancestral histories, just that we have to stop making our ancestors' mistakes. We have to stop "othering" people who are different than ourselves.

In all honestly, until we all adopt a complete and systems-design-oriented worldview, whatever our individual origins, we aren't all going to innately understand why fossil fuels are bad, and why some people consider toxic gick and plastic to be anathema to a healthy human existence. So permaculture, and every thought path that stems from and runs parallel to it, is our course towards that oneness.

-CK
 
pollinator
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One perspective is that you become "indigenous" when another cultural group colonized your land.  The term us perhaps more about political power dynamics than ties to land.  We don't talk about ethnic Germans as "indigenous" to Germany, although my relatives there have farmed the same land for generations.

I read an essay last year by a Mayan writer from Guatemala who rejected the label "indigenous" as a colonial construct.  It was an interesting point of view, I will try to find that to post.
 
gardener
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Mk Neal wrote:One perspective is that you become "indigenous" when another cultural group colonized your land.  The term us perhaps more about political power dynamics than ties to land.


This struck a chord with me. Being brought up in England I considered myself British, although family research reveals one set of great grandparents from mid/Eastern Europe. The UK has had wave after wave of conquerors and settlers mostly prior to the last thousand years, but many due to colonialism in the last 70. Now I live in Scotland I consider myself an English immigrant. Although racially similar, culturally very different. The Highland, and in this area Gaelic culture is as endangered as almost any.
 
gardener
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Robert Ray wrote: We came to a silent pondering the other day when he brought up the ills brought about by non indigenous peoples and how they could be amended



I think most people see these injustices as being things done in the past, but they are still being done. There are not many traditional societies left on the planet but they still exist and are being squeezed out of existence. Land-based and nomadic peoples are an inconvenience to modern society, and their struggles for survival go unnoticed.
 
Robert Ray
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Mk Neal wrote:One perspective is that you become "indigenous" when another cultural group colonized your land.  

I guess when Generation X came on the scene I became indigenous.
Seriously for me even though I, by circumstance have an indigenous relative I have no cultural tie to that.
Through my mother a first generation Canadian and very proud of it, I have relatives with intermittent contact.
From my  maternal grandparents, Norwegian immigrants, I have a limited food and language knowledge/rememberances. My wife says I have what she calls weird Scandinavian social quirks.
On my paternal side, where my North American indigenous DNA comes from. I have no cultural connection, I can play the card but it has no real significance other than I have that DNA in the bank.
This question came about when a friend from Mass. A Smith College, Anthropologist graduate started a conversation where our being non-natives we owed for past sins, of taking Indian land, slavery was brought up but I asked that we take one subject on at a time.
The fact that I have indigenous blood made no difference, the fact that my mother didn't immigrate into the U.S. until the beginning of the Civil Rights movement. The fact that my grandparents didn't arrive in the U.S. until 1918, held no sway. I am a bad man for living here.
I don't feel that way, by circumstance beyond my fetal control I arrived here. I belong here, I have assimilated to the current cultural norm, I don't look the part but I guess I can claim I belong in the BIPOC if pressed.
I'm indigenous, I have no significant ties anywhere else. I belong here, and am comfortable in that belief.

 
Robert Ray
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Mike,
The pondering came from my friends coming to terms with his holding non natives accountable and his realization that his spouse and offspring weren't being looked at the same way as he judged others.
 
pollinator
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Countries around the world where there has been an invasion by a second nation it appears that the first or "indigenous" people are physically and socially disadvantaged.  We as white Anglo-saxon Protestants (WASPS) look at this apparent situation from our own eyes.  We have this paradigm that Europe has been highly developed for thousands of years and anything less than European development is less.

If we accept that those who were there first are "first nations people" and if you are born in a country, you are indigenous then there is a clear distinction between the inhabitants and the invaders.
So, the reality is that  first nations people actually migrated to the continent upon which they reside and adapted their lifestyle over eons of trial and error.  As the invaders, we imposed our European lifestyle on the conquered land.  Years later, the smarter people are realising, all too late that the first nations people have thousands of years of inherited experience and tradition.  We on the other hand have at most, a couple of hundred.  The reality is that in the not to distant past, Europe was largely tribal.

So to "Permies"?  We are trying to return land to a state where  it is not only viable but sustainable.  The Aboriginal Australians have been managing the land by burning.  Australia has adapted to this but with the "Greenies" who are largely not schooled in the facts of the land stopping land management by fire and customary burning, we have had some horrendous bush fire seasons.  Fortunately, our Governments are now listening to and learning from the traditional land custodians.  It is working together to do the best for people and the land.

I overheard a rather loud and opinionated gent the other day expounding his belief that as Australians speak English it should be mandatory to speak English.  The reality is that there are over 700 first nations languages and for some, English is a second or third language (or even the tenth). Some of the first nation people cannot speak English.  And so be it.  Their language is thousands of years old.  English is a relatively new language and mostly a mush-mash of other European languages with writers such a Shakespeare, Chaucer and the King James Bible writers bring middle English to a new standard English through a new process called printing. This is only 400-500 years old and it is still evolving, yet different in each country where English is the Parliamentary Language.  SO! No it is not necessary to speak English but it is useful.

So, to the point, I am a second nation indigenous person of European descent and speak English at home.  I embrace equity and not equality.  I believe that everyone has something to teach us and to give. And visa versa.  We need to accept that there are differences, that some horrors occurred hundreds of years ago and are still happening in some parts of the world. But above all we need to realise that it was not me who committed those atrocities on you or you on me, but in order to make both our worlds a better place, we need to meet at a common table and step forward as indigenous people with better and combined knowledge and learning with no other aim but to leave our bit of the world a better place for future generations.
 
Michael Helmersson
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Paul Fookes wrote:
But above all we need to realise that it was not me who committed those atrocities on you or you on me, but in order to make both our worlds a better place, we need to meet at a common table



This is where I always wind up whenever this topic comes up and it often provokes conflict. The peoples of the world that were robbed of their lands and their culture are right to be angry, but I feel like that anger is being misdirected toward people that had no say in what happened and were not the true beneficiaries of the initial injustice. It seems very convenient that all this pent up anger is being diffused and dissipated amongst the non-indigenous populace while the vast bulk of wealth generated by conquest continues to accumulate in a very few hands. I think somebody is getting away with something and they are laughing at what we are arguing about.
 
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I read your post a few days ago and didn’t have an answer or anything useful to contribute. Then I stumbled on something that reminded me of your question. Here’s an alternative way of looking at the question.

The first chapter of “Braiding Sweetgrass” by Robin Wall Kimmerer is called Skywoman Falling. She’s a member of the Citizen Potawatomi Nation. I started to reread the book this week and wanted to add a few lines to this discussion.

She tells the story of Skywoman and how the story endures because we too are always falling.

“…it is also good to recall that, when Skywoman arrived here, she did not come alone. She was pregnant. Knowing her grandchildren would inherit the world she left behind, she did not work for flourishing in her time only. It was through her actions of reciprocity, the give and take with the land, that the original immigrant became indigenous. For all of us, becoming indigenous to a place means living as if your children’s future mattered, to take care of the land as if our lives, both material and spiritual, depend on it.”
 
Chris Kott
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I often get myself into trouble when discussing contentious issues when I make what I decide are logical and obvious long-term determinations that are, perhaps, not mine to make out loud, for everyone else, in the current socio-political climate.

If I am a beneficiary on any level of a historic injustice, I can see how it might not be my place to decide when enough time has elapsed, or what constitutes sufficient apology. I am not trying to do so when I suggest that the best course is to get over divisions and treat each other respectfully on an individual basis, but it definitely fits the pattern of an opinionated white guy trying to call the shots.

I may be wrong here, but I feel that the most important thing we can do from the outside is ask to be told their stories. I know my indigenous history was limited to who teamed up with which European power, and a few scattered minutiae. I don't feel we truly understand.

I know that when the MNR sends forestry professionals to indigenous communities in their areas of management to talk about glyphosate use to knock down pioneers post-harvest during seedling establishment, and the community absolutely refuses to just be okay with it, and the government goes ahead and does it anyways, that's paying lip service and nothing else.

So we as individuals can do better than that. If it becomes the common response, to listen, and then proceed in a way that respects everyone, I believe we can make moving forward together a reality and begin a more complete healing. I feel that needs to be the focus, absent any specific guidance from the indigenous community. But I suppose that's where listening comes into play.

-CK
 
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